By Rieva Lesonsky

In today’s economy, you might think that employees would be slowly losing the flexibility to work as they please—and in some cases, that’s true. According to the New York Times, The American Society of Human Resource Managers found that the number of companies offering options like flextime, part-time jobs and telecommuting had been increasing steadily until the recession—but the latest measure showed a 5 percent decline.

But in the same article there’s a spark of hope for those—like me—who are proponents of flexible work policies. The Times caught up with two pioneers of the trend, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. The pair became famous for creating the Results Only Work Environment at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters. The program lets 80 percent of employees make their own schedules and work from wherever they want, as long as they get their work done.

I’ve always believed this approach makes sense. Ressler and Thompson left Best Buy last year to start their own company, CultureRx, devoted to bringing ROWE to more workplaces.

The Times reports their business is actually picking up. Why? Because flexibility is one cheap (free) perk companies can offer in a recession; because employees everywhere are being asked to do more with less—and that requires doing things differently; and because it helps efforts by cities to reduce congestion and pollution on the roads.

I’m glad to hear that the progress employees have made toward gaining the flexibility to both work and enjoy their lives hasn’t been lost in the recession. Recent reports I’m reading indicate that high-value employees—the ones more employers don’t want to lose—are especially likely to become dissatisfied with pay cuts and more likely to seek new jobs when the economy picks up (or maybe even earlier). For lots of these employees, flexibility could make the difference between staying with your company and leaving. So why not offer them something that means so much to them, but costs you so little?